While in Canada, Pope Francis begged First Nations people for forgiveness over the residential school system, partially run by the Catholic Church while still operational.
Speaking to an audience of First Nations elders and former residential school attendees in Maskwacis, Alberta, Francis said:
“I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.” [translated from Spanish]
This isn’t the first time Pope Francis apologized for the Church’s role in Canadian residential schools, having done so earlier this year.
However, despite the apology, many Indigenous activists said it wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an in-person apology.
So far, Pope Francis has not mentioned the at least 58 churches, many of which were Roman Catholic, that have been burnt down or experienced incidents of arson and vandalism by Indigenous activists and sympathizers across the country.
Of those churches that were attacked, at least 17 of them have been scorched or burnt to a crisp in suspicious circumstances. Thus far, we have only been able to confirm one arrest concerning the church burnings, which was deemed to meet the criteria for a hate crime by police.
The cases of arson in Canada against churches exploded last year in what appears to be explicit acts of retaliation after the discovery of unmarked graves near residential schools — said graves were also used as the Pope’s motivation to visit and apologize.
While those that committed the acts seemed motivated by a sense of justice, many targeted churches have majority indigenous or racialized minority congregations. These people say they’re devastated to see their place of worship destroyed.
“We are refugees with no means. We escaped from Vietnam to come here to get more freedom, to live, and we think it was a good country — and now it happened to our Church,” Pastor Thai Nguyen told The Counter Signal after the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church was attacked.
“Maybe it is not safe to be here in Canada compared to Vietnam.”
Nonetheless, it doesn’t appear that the Pope plans to address the issue plaguing his followers.